Supporting a Pacific Islands Super Rugby franchise – not simply handouts – is a better way of thanking Fiji

Bob Baker
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England v Fiji - Old Mutual Wealth Series
Fiji lost 58-15 against England at Twickenham on Saturday (Source: Getty)

Much has been made of the disparity in earnings between the England players’ £22,000 match fee and the £400 with which the Fijians were remunerated following their meeting at Twickenham on Saturday, which the hosts won 58-15.

The Rugby Football Union will be making a £75,000 token payment to the Islanders and should not feel obliged to write a cheque to the visitors just because they are not of equal economic circumstance.

Using the same logic it would seem wrong not to give the homeless man outside the tube at least a tenner on the way into work every morning. And on the way home.

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Large payments to governing bodies would not necessarily be helpful in any event.

The rugby unions of Fiji, Tonga and Samoa have at times been poor governors of the sport in their respective jurisdictions.

Not two years ago, the Samoan squad raised concerns regarding the union’s accountability and transparency. Players later alleged that their families had been threatened.

Similarly, captain Mahonri Schwalger was removed from the Samoan squad after the 2011 World Cup for voicing his concerns.

Europe has much to thank the islands for

More constructively, the RFU might support the establishment of a Super Rugby franchise in the islands to retain the services of the naturally gifted players that continue to be miraculously churned from an under-invested production line.

The islanders have given much to the game, even if their unions have not. Much of New Zealand’s success in recent years comes down to players who have migrated.

In fact, most international teams can call on players with genetic roots in Polynesia to be among their stand-out players.

England have the Tongan Vunipolas, Samoan Manu Tuilagi and new cap Nathan Hughes, who was born in Lautoka, Fiji.

The French have flying winger Virimi Vakatawa and the more fulsome Samoan prop Uini Atonio.

Much of Europe’s domestic leagues have much to thank the men of the Pacific for – not least the shuddering collisions and skilful execution of impossible offloads.

Stemming Pacific emigration patterns might sadly reduce the frequency of T-bone tackles in the Premiership, but it would do much for the national teams of the islands, and also for their wider economic development.

Familiar France

The French, meanwhile, managed to come up short of the standards that they have never claimed to set themselves.

Le Quinze de France has the technical and individual ability to dismantle every team in world rugby, yet fell just short again, losing 25-23 to a weakened Australia side.

France populated their team with exciting names that on paper make the enthusiast salivate, yet making the best of the group seems nigh on impossible.

The role of France coach is a chalice poisoned with the same toxic concoction as the corresponding position in English football. Coaches change, mentalities remain.

“Liberte” may well forever remain inconsistent with the structure and discipline required to accrue results in Test rugby. It will continue, however, to add to the magic.

Vive le difference.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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